In case you haven't noticed, your nearest ``multiplex'' theater has turned into sequel city again. The titles on the marquee are full of Roman numerals: ``Rambo III'' and ``Poltergeist III'' and ```Crocodile' Dundee II.'' I've seen them all, and if this is the best the sequel-mongers can do, Hollywood is in a lot of trouble. The least awful of the bunch is ```Crocodile' Dundee II,'' featuring Paul Hogan in his favorite role of Mick Dundee, the lovable Australian outdoorsman. This time the script mixes him up with drug dealers from South America, who are after some incriminating photographs Mick's girlfriend has stumbled on. In the first half of the story, Crocodile plays cat-and-mouse with them in Manhattan. Then everyone moves to Australia, where pretty much the same things happen with a different background. Mr. Hogan is fun to watch, and there are a few laughs. But the story happens in s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n. The movie would be half an hour shorter if director John Cornell cut out the sleepy pauses between bits of action.
The same goes for ``Poltergeist III,'' which has an energy level that would put any real ghost to shame. Once again, the heroine is cute little Carol Anne; and once again, a mean gang of spooks has decided to plague her. There's a sad pleasure in watching the good performance by Heather O'Rourke, a talented young actress who died tragically after the film was completed. But if you liked the other actors in the original ``Poltergeist'' movie, JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson, don't look for them here - they decided to sit this one out, and I don't blame them. The main fun of this movie is watching the incredibly obvious camera tricks. If an untechnical person like me can spot them a mile away, you know they're klutzy.
``Rambo III'' raises an interesting question: When you've conquered Oregon in your first movie, and refought the Vietnam war in your second, what do you do for an encore? The answer turns out to be, you head for Afghanistan, where there's a new batch of heads that need busting - most of them Russians, since they're Sylvester Stallone's favorite enemy.
If you've been reading the real-life headlines lately, you know that new things are happening in Afghanistan - including a pullout of the Soviet forces that invaded the country about 8 years ago. Rambo hasn't seen these headlines - can this guy read? - and his whole movie is embarrassingly out of date. It's also embarrassingly stupid, full of the brainless violence and Neanderthal dialogue that marked the other ``Rambo'' movies. It reportedly cost $60 million to make this monstrosity, but you'd never guess that from the action on the screen, which is strictly by the numbers.
Rambo and ``Crocodile,'' go home. And take the poltergeists with you. Maybe you could all form a rock group or something, and leave us moviegoers alone?
David Sterritt is the Monitor's film critic.